For studio cats that love high gain tones, the Tubemeister 5 is a killer choice.
Germany-based Hughes & Kettner have long been one of the most successful premier boutique amp builders in Europe. Known for a blend of high fidelity and stinging, detailed highs, their creations have held been fixtures on the backlines of hot pickers from Alex Lifeson to Michael Wilton, and Allan Holdsworth, to name a few. Though H&K are known in many circles for building monsters, they successfully ventured into low wattage territory with their popular Tubemeister 18 (which was really just a very small monster). Now the company has released an even more miniaturized amp bearing their namesake, the Tubemeister 5.
Have Amp, Will Travel
The Tubemeister 5 borders on adorable. Not the words you’re average H&K user associates with their rig, but in this case it’s very true. The pint-sized five-watter weighs in at only 7.65 pounds, and fits perfectly into its (yes, we’ll go ahead and say it) petite carrying case. Visually, it's a dead-ringer for the larger models in the Hughes & Kettner line, with a clean and striking look of Plexiglas and polished metal.
The entirely tube circuit begins with a single 12AX7 preamp tube, then moves to the power section that's fueled by a 12BH7 dual triode tube that runs in push/pull mode. Oversized transformers aid the power amp in producing the strongest, cleanest output signal possible for five watts and keep the tone from flubbing out and mushing up at higher volumes.
Just like the Tubemeister 18, this particular Hughes & Kettner amp is pretty simple and straightforward. Three EQ knobs for bass, mid, and treble shape the overall tone of the amp, which feed the signal into the gain and master volume controls. There's also a little switch for changing between clean and overdriven modes between the Bass and Master controls. Even though the amp has only one channel, moving to the Drive mode revoices the frequency response of the three EQ controls—making them more sensitive for shaping mid and high gain tones.
The Tubemeister 5 was designed to essentially be a highly portable, studio-ready version of their larger models—including the already diminutive Tubemeister 18. In keeping with this train of thought, the amp comes packed with an integrated Red Box XLR direct out, which makes it a cinch to run the amp directly into a mixing console. The direct out has speaker simulation, so for players who want to lay down a few tracks without lugging a speaker cab around, it's a great option that's always active.
Just like its bigger 18-watt brother, the younger Tubemeister kicks out serious grind that is quintessentially Hughes & Kettner with surprising volume to back it up, too. It’s not always the cleanest amp with certain pickups—par for the course with an amp this small—but it's got very surprising range.
A Telecaster and a 2x12 demonstrated the Tubemeister 5’s capacity for high detail and the ability to be super punchy and thick for its size. It’s the presence of the signature Hughes & Kettner hi-fi quality that really impresses though—a foundation of luscious mids and tight lows that belies the amp’s tiny dimensions. The combination of the Tele's bridge pickup and my increasing pick attack revealed the amp's touch sensitivity, giving me a bright stinging lead tone when I cranked the Gain control up to about 1 o'clock.
Despite the company's best intentions to deliver the most clean tone possible, the amp gets dirty once you set the Master and Gain controls past noon—right at the sweet spot where the cleans started to warm up and sag a little. Dropping the volume control on the Tele about 1/3 or so helps eliminate some grit. That was much harder with a Dimarzio Tone Zone and Evolution-equipped Charvel So Cal. The pickups just drove the amp a little too hard for playing crystal cleans at medium to high levels. Still, the light gain raunch that resulted sounded fantastic, if a little bit piercing in the highs. A quick adjustment of the Treble will nip that problem in the bud, however.
The amp's Treble control is also vital to dialing in the Drive mode, which is the real star of this show. The EQ controls each take on a different sweep, dynamic, and personality in the Drive mode, but none has a more noticeable effect than the Treble control. Move it up from the 12 o'clock position while playing the D and G strings in unison, and you can hear it sweep through a huge range of high-end frequencies ranging from warm to razor-like. It really works like a combination of a presence and treble control and can really help the amp rise above a crowded mix.
In the Drive mode, the Charvel and the amp's raging distortion were a perfect match for quick, heavy riffage and sky high runs and bends. Even at extreme volume levels—which were always much louder than I expected—the lows stayed focused with galloping triplets and hand-heavy swipes.
For studio cats that love high gain tones, the Tubemeister 5 is a killer choice. The amount of overdrive on tap is impressive, focused, and full throughout the amp’s range. The cleans are nice, even if the heavy-duty transformers can't quite overcome the limitations of low wattage to get really clean at loud volume levels. But if you're in the market for that quintessential hi-fi tone that put Hughes & Kettner on the map, and you don't want to lug around one of their larger, weightier amps, it’s worth giving this little monster a try.
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.